Clerkships, Cold Offers, Job Searches

A Winter of Discontent for Clerks:
Wiley Rein ‘Cold Offers’ Judicial Clerks

clerks snowball earth.JPGIn late October, we received this question from a federal clerk:

To date, I’ve seen at least six posts in a series ATL has been doing about firms rescinding unaccepted summer associate offers to 2L’s due to oversubscription of the summer class. I would be interested to know whether firms are actually, or at least contemplating, rescinding unaccepted offers for full-time associate positions that were being held open for former summer associates that are doing judicial clerkships this year?

I have an offer from a biglaw firm and was assured (albeit almost one year ago) that my offer would be held open until I had completed my clerkship and could formally accept. Needless to say, I am getting more than a bit nervous about whether my job will still be waiting for me come September ’09.

At the time, we told the questioner that we hadn’t heard anything like that from any major law firm during this recruiting cycle. Nobody’s going to rescind offers to clerks!

We thought.

We hoped.

Yesterday, we had a couple of interesting conversations with folks over at Wiley Rein. We now believe that the chair of Wiley Rein’s recruiting committee placed a number of phone calls over the weekend to current judicial clerks. The recruiting coordinator was careful to say that Wiley was not “rescinding” offers, but that the clerks should seriously consider looking at other options for full-time employment when their clerkships are up.

More details after the jump.

As we understand it, most of the phone calls were made to clerks who had summered with Wiley in 2007. Obviously, many clerks do not “formally” accept offers with law firms, at the request of the judge they are clerking for. But those acceptances usually are a mere formality.

Nearly a year ago, we reported on a possible softening in the market for clerks:

[T]here’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that the Biglaw job market for judicial law clerks — usually highly sought after by firms, and wooed with ever-increasing clerkship bonuses — may be softening.

Back then, a tipster reported:

My former firm recently informed me that they would not hire me when my clerkship ends in August. I spent one year in the New York office of a large national firm upon graduation, and am currently a district court clerk in Boston. I had kept in touch with various partners at the firm over the past few months, thinking I would return.

But when I asked about rejoining the firm in January, I was told by the head of litigation that they would not be hiring associates in “my position” seven months hence. So much for loyalty!

So much for a “one-off random occurrence in February,” as we previously thought.

Wiley Rein declined to comment for this story.

But in August, we reported that Wiley Rein had made offers to a large percentage of their 2008 summer class:

The firm’s 2008 summer class was oversubscribed, but only four summer associates paid the price. We’d been hearing reports that Wiley gave offers to 34 out of 38 SAs, and the firm has now confirmed the news.

In that story we noted that Wiley had hoped to make only 25 offers, not 34. Perhaps they decided to make up the difference by pushing out 2007 summers away on clerkships?

Obviously, clerks that have been encouraged to look elsewhere are unhappy. One tipster managed to make it through an entire paragraph without cursing:

At the very least, they treated me very poorly. It would have been one thing if they had simply told me off the bat that they weren’t sure that they would have any openings. But emails and phone calls with the firm made it clear that they not only had openings when my clerkship finished, but that I was invited to join them. Having my offer rescinded so abruptly has really thrown me for a loop, particularly given the state of the economy. I thought I’d have a safe place to land when my clerkship ends, but now I have to start my job search anew…

Is Wiley Rein an outlier or an early-adopter?

Clerks, once you get off the phone with your law firm recruiting contacts, please share your stories with us. “A Winter of Discontent for Clerks: Part II” is sure to follow.

Earlier: Clerks in Paradise? Maybe Not When It Comes To Hiring

Nationwide No Offer Watch: Wiley Rein

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